Sold-Out Biocom Annual Dinner Makes Waves
The 2014 Biocom Annual Dinner, “Making Waves”, was definitely one for the ages. Many attendees of the sold-out event came away saying the program this year was one of the strongest ever. We thankall our sponsors for making this evening possible, especially Lead Sponsors BioMed Realty and VWR.
The evening started with the popular networking reception, where old friendships were renewed and new relationships born. Retiring to the ballroom, the evening started off by a hearty greeting by Biocom Board Chair Magda Marquet and Biocom President and CEO Joe Panetta, followed by a “selfie” of the audience from the podium (available on Biocom’s Facebook page).
City of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer welcomed attendees and emphasized the importance of the life sciences to the region’s economy and to him personally. Congressman Scott Peters was then awarded Biocom’s “Elected Official of the Year,” becoming one of a very few policy makers who have won the award more than once. Due to votes in Washington DC, Congressman Peters accepted the award via video.
Stephanie Venn-Watson, Director of the Translational Medicine and Research Program of the National Marine Mammal Foundation, described that organization’s work in Point Loma using dolphins in diabetes research. Dr. Venn-Watson pointed out that for purposes of diabetes research, dolphins are actually more similar to humans than rats or other mammals. Among its most exciting findings so far:dolphins have an “off switch” for some types of diabetes, giving hope that this research will lead to a similar finding in humans.
The first portion of the evening closed with one of the most moving, powerful patient presentations ever given on a Biocom stage, as Sarah Wilson talked about her family’s challenges with two young children with Type I diabetes. She described the family’s specially trained dog, Ruby, who can detect dangerously low and high blood sugar by scent, and how Ruby likely saved her daughter’s life on the very first day of service by alerting the Wilsons to dangerous fluctuations in glucose readings overnight. And also how, after re-training the dog to track two members of the family, they realized this was aging the dog pre-maturely, and so now Sarah again wakes up every two hours during the night to test their blood sugars to give the dog recuperation time, lest they lose this valuable member of their team. Few who heard this family’s story will forget it.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Rudy Tanzi, one of the world’s foremost Alzheimer’s researchers. Dr. Tanzi described how we got to where we currently are in our knowledge of Alzheimer’s: how it is believed that damage may start 15 years before any outward symptoms appear; the relationship between amyloid plaques, tangles, and manifestation of alzheimer’s, and the key and recurring role San Diego researchers and companies have played in advancing this knowledge.
Dr. Tanzi talked about the difficulty in how Alzheimer’s has traditionally been modeled in animals (specifically, mice), in that it was not leading to discoveries that would effectively treat the disease. He hopes this will change with his team’s announcement last month that they had developed a method to create “Alzheimer’s in a dish,” human brain cells which manifest Alzheimer’s. This was accomplished by placing the cells in a gel, where they could develop neural networks similar to those found in the human brain. For the first time, researchers will be able to work with living human cells afflicted with Alzheimer’s. It is greatly hoped this breakthrough will accelerate research and effective treatments for Alzheimer’s. If a therapeutic cocktail can stop tangle development and the brain inflammation which is known to accompany Alzheimer’s development by “turning off” a physiological switch, it is hoped that an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s is possible.
A “Rock Star of Science,” Dr. Tanzi is also a passionate musician who has performed with Joe Perry of Aerosmith, among others. He closed his presentation by playing “Remember Me,” a beautiful, haunting song he wrote with Chris Mann, finalist on NBC’s “The Voice,” whose father is afflicted with Alzheimer’s. It is hoped this song will become an anthem to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and give a voice to those patients and their loved ones. It will be in official release soon, we will keep you posted when it is available.
Pictures from the event will be posted in the coming days on the Biocom Facebook page (please “like” us so you will see these in your facebook feed). Thank you to our members and their guests for sharing this most special of evenings with us, and to our sponsors for making it possible.
The Wilson family visited Biocom member Dexcom, which makes some of the devices the children use.
Biocom Board Chair Magda Marquet and Biocom President and CEO Joe Panetta
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer welcomes guests
Congressman Scott Peters Accepts the Biocom 2014 Elected Official of the Year Award via video
Charles McWilliams of VWR
Stephanie Venn-Watson of the National Marine Mammal Foundation
Patient Advocate Sarah Wilson speaks about the challenges of raising two Type I diabetic children
R. Kent Griffin, Jr. of BioMed Realty Trust
Keynote speaker Dr. Rudolph Tanzi